Tuskers set-up final date with Atletico de Kolkata

14 Dec 2016
Kerala Blasters secured a spot in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2016 finale with a 3-0 win on penalties over Delhi Dynamos at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Wednesday. The two sides were inseparable at 2-2 on aggregate at the end of the second leg. The Tuskers managed to set up a repeat of the 2014 ISL finale as they get another attempt at the silverware against Atletico de Kolkata, with the added incentive of playing the final in front of their home fans in Kochi. 
The tie ended 2-1 to the home side at the end of 120 minutes of action, with Marcelinho (21’) and Ruben Rocha (45+) scoring for the home side, with Duckens Nazon’s (24’) goal sandwiched in between. From the penalty spot, Malouda, Bruno Pelissari skied their shots while Memo saw his effort being parried by Nandy. On the other hand, only German's spot-kick was kept out by Doblas while the trio of Josu, Belfort and Rafique did the needful.Both sides came into the crunch tie with a change apiece as Lalchawnkima came in for Konsham Singh for the Lions and Kervens Belfort sat out for Didier Kadio for the Tuskers.
The first good opening of the game came in the seventh minute, when Josu Currais picked up the ball after Sandip Nandy had punched away Florent Malouda’s free-kick. The diminutive Spaniard sprung on the break and put in a ball eluding the Delhi defense with Duckens Nazon and CK Vineeth lurking in the box. The pass however turned out to be elusive for the duo as well. Vineeth’s attempt to bring it back into danger was dealt well with by Souvik Chakrabarti.
It took the hosts 13 more minutes to erase the first-leg deficit, but it was borne out of an error from Nandy. Marcos Tebar put in a probing ball from near the center circle into the box. However, despite no Delhi attackers presenting imminent danger, Nandy elected to come out get himself into no-man’s land as Didier Kadio cleared the ball. However, the clearance fell kindly for Marcelinho who made no mistake of obligingly putting it into an empty net.
Kerala, however, bounced back almost immediately through a goal of sheer individual brilliance from Nazon. The Haitian picked the ball up from around the half-way line and then waltzed his way past a clueless Delhi defense before expertly slotting it the far corner of Toni Doblas’ net to give Kerala the lead on aggregate.
Delhi were reduced to ten men right before the half-hour mark with Milan Singh given his marching orders for a studs-up tackle on Mehtab Hossain. In the argument that followed, Lalchawnkima picked up a yellow for giving the referee a mouthful.
Mohammed Rafi picked up a groin injury and was replaced by Mohammed Rafique. Josu went into the referee’s book as well in the half, with the yellow meaning that he would miss the final should Kerala make it.Kadio nearly doubled the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned side’s lead shortly afterwards with a pile-driver from distance. However, the shot, though stuck sweetly on the half-volley, fizzed past the woodwork.With half-time looming, Delhi had a couple of half-chances of their own to get back into the game. First up, Richard Gadze made room for a shot and let fly, but Nandy had it covered. Next up, Kean Lewis teased a ball into the box minutes later, but it was just past an outstretched Marcelinho.
Both sides had enough time to fashion attempts from distance, with Nazon and Tebar’s efforts on either end of the pitch not far away. With minutes ticking down in the half laden with six minutes of additional time, Vineeth had a glorious opening in the sixth, but his try to pull off a Nazon impression was thwarted by the defenders.Delhi took an anti-climactic lead in the seventh of the stipulate six minutes of added time. Tebar swung a free-kick into a packed box, and amid pushes and shoves, the ball ricocheted off Ruben Rocha and Kadio into the net. Nandy was complaining in vain about a push from Malouda, with both dugouts erupting in another clash with the referee being forced to get involved.
That drama was the last bit of action from the half as the sides went in level on aggregate.
Marcelinho sprung past the left-hand side of Kerala’s defense to cut in, and with Nandy at his mercy, he was deserted by the tight angle as his shot strayed out. Mehtab swung a free-kick into the box, and Doblas must have been thanking his stars as Hengbart headed it into his welcoming grasp.
The referee signalled for four minutes as the tie looked set for thirty more minutes of action with the sides inseparable.
Seven minutes after resumption of play, Malouda picked the ball up outside the Kerala box and made his way near Nandy’s goal using neat footwork, but ended up skying his shot.Azrack Mahamat pinged the ball into the area between the half-way line and the Delhi box. With Nazon giving chase, Doblas felt compelled to come out and play sweeper-keeper to send it out of danger. Coppell attempted to make the most of the man-advantage by bringing on another forward, in Belfort, for Kadio. This meant that Josu went back to left-back.
Right before the hour-mark, Tebar’s free-kick into the danger-zone was met well by a backwards header by Rocha, but Nandy had his bases cleared this time.
Marcelinho attempted one from distance only to see it fly over. Shortly afterwards, Vineeth nearly doubled the lead when he met Rafique’s cross, but the header went wide.Gianluca Zambrotta thrust Malouda upfront when he took off Gadze to bring on Memo to shore the midfield up.
Sandesh Jhingan made a superb goal-line clearance when Tebar’s free-kick was headed goalwards by Malouda who had almost started celebrating with Nandy left for dead.
The first chance of the first period of extra-time fell to Marcelinho, after the 36-year-old Malouda beat Jhingan on pace and took a shot. The rebound fell for the Brazilian, but his effort ended up being a few inches too high.
Malouda fashioned himself another shot after good interplay with Marcelinho, but the effort was palmed out by the 41-year-old Kerala shot-stopper. The former Chelsea man didn’t look to have been undone by his age, as he sprinted to Memo’s long ball into space near the end of the first period. He crossed it for Marcelinho but his header across the face of the goal was easy pickings for Nandy.There was scant action more in the second period of extra time as the sides went to penalties, inseparable after over 210 minutes of action.
For Kerala, Josu Currais, Kervens Belfort and Mohammed Rafique managed to find the netting with only Antonio German missing the target. Meanwhile, marquee man Florent Malouda, Bruno Pelissari, Memo, all three missed for the hosts.